Knowing how and why our children or students think and act the way they do would improve our capacity as parents or educators. To many of us educators, our core mission is to motivate and help our students achieve success. In this article, we will share some powerful key principles of psychology that will transform you from a good educator into an amazing one.
The fundamental idea of “Anchoring” is that people rely heavily on the first piece of information they receive to make a decision.
For example, if you want your student to complete his mathematics ten-year series (TYS) at least once before his O-level examinations, you inform him early on that “Most good students complete their TYS at least three times over before their O-level exams.” As such, you have anchored and inserted into his mind the requirement of completing the TYS three times. Subconsciously, he would think that as the norm and use it as a benchmark. Even when he wants to slack off, he would still feel compelled to at least complete it once.
This is also the reason why it is crucial for us to always set high expectations for our students early on and communicate it clearly to them! As the saying goes “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”
2) Social Proof
Social proof is the theory that people will look to other people to imitate or provide guidance for his actions. According to Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.
In other words, when we see many people doing a certain action or buying a certain item, we would be more comfortable in doing the same because we assume that the people around us know what they are doing.
As such, peer pressure is a very real thing. If we create an environment where all the students are working hard, anyone else who enters the environment would have a higher tendency to work hard. If at home, the parents themselves show their children that they read a lot and work very hard, their children would do the same. If you enroll your children to a top school or tuition center where students are all workaholics, your children would subconsciously pick up the same habit.
Our brains are able to remember information much easier when they are organized into related groups. When knowledge is taught to students as isolated pieces of information, they will have difficulty remembering anything. However, if the material is organized into relevant classifications before presented, a greater portion will be remembered. It is also important for a teacher/tutor to take the effort to help students draw the link with materials previously learnt. The more connections formed, the stronger the memory.
4) Illusory truth effect
Want to make a lie seem true? Say it again and again and again. Research has shown that when people are exposed to a message repeatedly, they will believe the message to be true (the message itself can be a truth or a lie). So, if you want your child to pick up a certain trait, it is easiest to find a relevant quote that glorifies that trait, then print/buy a poster with that quote and paste it on their room wall. For example, you want your child to work hard, simply paste a nice poster with the quote “Good things come to those who work their asses off”. If you want your child to be kind, paste a poster with a quote “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.”
When your child sees the poster every day, the sheer exposure to it will make him believe that the statement is true.
5) Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP)
Sociologist Robert K. Merton came up with this theory in 1948 which states that any prediction or believe that we make at the beginning would affect our behavior in such a way that we make that prediction come true. In other words, if you believe that you are rubbish, you will behave in such a way that will slowly turn you into rubbish. If you believe that you are born to be successful, you will constantly work towards becoming successful.
Because the effect of SFP is so real, parents and teachers have to be careful of the things we say to our children or students. When you tell your daughter “I know that you will be one of the best dancers and perform at Victoria concert hall one day”. She will train hard, grab opportunities and rise to the occasion to become that. On the other hand, if you tell your son “You have no talent in mathematics, you take after me” and he believes you, he will avoid math, lose confidence in math and subconsciously find ways to fail math such that it reinforces that belief.
Refer to this article for more tips on using Self-Fulfilling Prophecy positively with you Child/Student.
6) Loss Aversion
The loss aversion theory points out that people have a tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. In other words, the pain a human feels in losing $10 is more than the pleasure they gain in obtaining $10.
From a student’s point of view, if he has never scored distinction in math before, there is little motivation to work hard and start scoring distinctions. But if the student has been scoring distinctions for a long time, it would be difficult for him to accept not scoring distinctions.
As such, it is important to let a student have a taste of success once. Help him work hard once and score a distinction. Once he or she has achieved that, he would have an innate unwillingness to lose that. If he continues to work hard and top the class for a few more times, that would become his identity. When that happens, the child will be self-motivated and work extremely hard to defend his status and identity. Even if you beg him to start slacking off and risk losing his status as the top dog, he might not agree to it.
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